Theft Charges Against Jeffersonville Teacher Could Be Dropped

By Craig Hoffman

(JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind., February 12th, 2004, 5:30 p.m.) -- The attorney for a Kentuckiana school teacher says felony theft charges will be brought against his client. But before the case reaches a jury, there's a chance all charges could be dismissed. Our Craig Hoffman updates you on a story WAVE 3 Investigators first told you about Tuesday night.

"Not only would this business be out of money, but she would have been out personally."

For two days, Jeffersonville detectives delved into a computer belonging to school teacher Sharon Leavell. Police arrested Leavell on Monday on charges of attempted theft. They said the Spring Hill Elementary educator planned to use a bogus cashier's check to buy $57,000 worth of computers.

After extensive examination, Chief of Detectives Charlie Thompson says Leavell appears to be the victim of an international scam. "These scams are out there on the Internet. People have to know if it looks to good to be true it probably is."

Detective Thompson says a man Leavell met on the Internet from Nigeria wanted her to buy computers in the U.S. and send them to him. The problem: the check he sent her was fake, and a credit card he sent her to use had been stolen. And two computers he gave Leavell as a gift were also stolen.

Despite having been deceived, police say Leavell broke the law by shipping and receiving stolen items. "The person that usually ends up getting charged is that middle person who made the mistake, to trust, to think they were going to get something for nothing."

Leavell has taken a leave of absence from her teaching job, but hopes to return soon. Her attorney, Larry Wilder, says his client has learned a very hard lesson. "She trusted someone she should have never trusted."

Leavell took a few days off to be with friends after her arrest Monday. Formal charges against her should come next week. But as her attorney and police have said, there are Internet scam artists out there -- and apparently there are more than 1,000 in Nigeria alone preying on people like Leavell.

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Online Reporter: Craig Hoffman

Online Producer: Michael Dever